Media mogul Raghav Bahl has said that registration of prosecution cases against him by the income tax authorities was “unfair, arbitrary and mala fide” as he was neither given ample time to defend himself nor the reply furnished by him at the short notice of a day taken on record.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Bahl said the Income Tax (IT) department did not notify him or sent any and registered two prosecution cases against him in a Meerut court for allegedly “understating the value of a foreign property in order to wilfully evade tax” and “failing to explain the source of his investment”, of which he came to know on Wednesday on his own.
“A disturbing development has come to my attention on this day, May 29, 2019. Without having received any summons or notice from the Income Tax Department, I have found, through a perusal of the official ‘e-courts’ online service, that two prosecution cases have been registered against me in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Meerut.
These cases were filed and registered on May 3, 2019, nearly a month ago, and the next date of hearing is June 6, 2019, despite which I have not been notified of them in any way,” Bahl said in a statement.
He had received show-cause notices from the IT department on May 1 this year on his email under Sections 50 and 51 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) Act 2015. The notices said that he had understated the value of his investment in a London property by around Rs 2.45 crore, and that he had failed to fully explain the source of this investment.
Bahl said that he was “surprised” to receive these notices as he had “disclosed all the information relating to this investment” in his returns and had “duly paid” all the taxes for the same.
“I was even more surprised to see that the show-cause notices said I would have to provide my response to them at a hearing on the very next day, May 2 at 3:30 pm – and that if I failed to attend this hearing, it would be assumed that I had ‘nothing to say’ in the matter,” Bahl, the founder and promoter of news website ‘The Quint’, said.
“At 3:25 pm on May 2, my chartered accountant wrote to the incometax.gov.in account saying that there were factual inaccuracies in the show-cause notices, that all disclosures had been made in my returns for the assessment year 2018-2019. He also asked for two weeks to take further legal advice and make a detailed submission with related documents, as could reasonably be expected.
“At 5:19 pm on May 2, the incometax.gov.in account replied saying: ‘In connection to your e-mail dt. 02.05.2019, I am directed to convey you that it is not possible to adjourn the date of hearing so long as requested by you. I am further directed to inform you that at least factual reply/ submission may be submitted by today itself’,” he added.
He said his chartered accountant sent a reply by email at 9:29 pm on May 2 setting out the “factual position” relating to the issues raised in the IT notices. The CA again wrote to the IT department on May 11 asking for an opportunity to be heard but received no reply, he said.
“It is not just that the limited questions raised in the notices about the sum of Rs 2.45 crore and the source of investment had been fully answered in the email from my chartered accountant on May 2 with supporting documentation submitted within a reasonable time afterward – but on top of that, it is the fact that the prosecution complaints were filed on May 3 itself that raise serious concerns over whether this action against me is bona fide,” Bahl said.
“If the complaints were filed in the court on May 3, it means they had already been prepared along with sanction for prosecution before my first response was even received…This appears to be a serious violation of the principles of natural justice, in particular the right to be heard.
“That the process being followed was not entirely fair was already evident from the minimal time given to me to respond to the show-cause notices; the fact that my response (let alone the supporting documents sent later) was not even considered makes the lack of good faith even clearer,” he pointed out.
He further emphasised that the failure of the IT department to respond to his communications and to send him summons/notification about the prosecution cases till date showed that the conduct of the IT authorities and registration of cases was “unfair, arbitrary and mala fide, and are a serious threat to my personal liberty”.